Because I’ve been to Paris so often, I focused my trip around food and friends, rather than sightseeing. I did, however, get in a few new things, such as the Gainsbourg wall.
The highlight, however, would have to be Yam’tcha.
I’d heard about Yam’tcha from a client, who mentioned a fantastic restaurant off of the Rue de Rivoli that combines French and Asian cuisine. The most exciting part is that they have a tea pairing option, in addition to wine pairing options. I built my entire trip to Paris around having lunch there.
We started with a light floral tea (and a glass of champers) while we reviewed the menu. However, the menu is pretty pared down. All you do is select whether you want the tasting menu or the a la carte menu and what pairings you want. The chef, sommelier and tea expert will take care of the rest! So only go if you are open to some surprises.
I will mention that, as a vegetarian, I was really surprised with how accommodating the restaurant was. Of course, they are Michelin starred, so I shouldn’t have been. But my companion had meat, so you’ll be able to live vicariously through us both and see the range of ingredients there are for both meat eaters and less carnivorous types 🙂
The starter was a chai rice soup topped with, depending, tempura veggies or oysters and a vegetarian spring roll. I was a little put off by the look of the rice soup, thinking it would be like rice pudding, but it was nothing of the type. It was nutty, crunchy and rich; in short, a great starter with the light tea.
Our first tea was a gold Oolong. With each course, we were given a tea and a long explanation of the tea, including its origin and flavoring- much like a wine pairing. Most of the others at the restaurant seemed to get a wine pairing, but the option of a tea pairing was so unique we couldn’t resist. Plus, there were so many courses, and we wanted to walk around Paris (not fall into an alcohol-induced nap), so we stuck with one glass of champers and then dedicated our focus to the food and tea.
The first full course was smoked tofu with mandarin sauce. The non-veggie version, which we forgot the photo for, was scallops. I tried a bite of the scallops, because usually I really like them (despite being a veggie most of the time!). However, I felt the tofu was much, much better. It was smoky, which really offset the light orange sauce.
The second course was a mushroom dish, with multiple types of mushrooms with cheddar cheese flakes. The non-veg version, which, again, we forgot a photo of, was foie gras instead of mushroom. I did NOT want to try that. This was probably my least favorite dish, but it was still phenomenal. The texture of the various mushrooms, offset by sharp cheddar, was surprising. It just wasn’t as unique and striking as the other dishes.
The dish was paired with a black tea from southern China. I really liked the pot, although it was really, really difficult to pour the tea from. We had to rely on the waiters to keep coming back to pour for us.
Around this time, I started to pay attention to the restaurant, which had really filled up. At the table next to us was none other than Dominic West! In the midst of greatness whilst eating amazing food. Could not imagine a more interesting way to spend an afternoon than good company, good food and listening to a celebrity and his wife get slowly drunk on the wine pairings that came with their lunch.
Finally, we remember to take photos of the meaty options! You can tell my lunch partner is not a professional photog, but then again, neither am I.
Next course was aubergine and bok choy in soy sauce– the meat eaters version was turbot in the same sauce. This was probably my favorite dish. I loved the soybeans in the dish, which really added a richness to the entire dish, and I loved the tea that went with it. It was a light Taiwanese tea that complimented the sharp soy perfectly. The pot was really cool, too!
The intermediary dish before the main course (!!) was a lovely pumpkin soup with rice noodles. The meaty version was octopus in curry. At this point, we started to get quite concerned, being quite, quite full already. We slowed down significantly, which is quite a task since we’d already been at lunch for two hours. So, if you decide to go, just know, you’ll spend a significant part of your afternoon at the restaurant. Which was just fine with me, since it combined my favorite things: people watching, eating and tea. In Paris. Talk about winning.
Finally the “main” course arrived. By this point, we were basically stuffed. But when you combine black truffles and caramelized onions with potatoes (or wagyu beef, if you’re not a veg!), you make room. You just go very, very slowly…
…and wash it all down with another Oolong tea, this one smoky and floral.
After the main dish, you’ll be asked if you want a cheese course. Always, always, always answer YES. It wasn’t your typical cheese plate. Instead, we were given a steamed bun filled with stilton and a maraschino cheery. Sound weird? Sure, it kind of was, but it was the most memorable dish of the meal. I was really impressed, although I burned my tongue on the piping hot cheese a bit.
The tea pairing was a Green tea to refresh the palate after the strong cheese. It was definitely what the doctor ordered after such a strong cheese, and overall after so much food.
After about 15 minutes, we were brought our dessert course, starting with a rose white tea. I was happy to try a white tea, because I rarely have had white tea, it being so expensive. It was light and airy, with just a hint of rose. I really liked it.
Dessert was apple three ways…
…AND a sorrel soup with almond coulis.
Although we didn’t have the wine pairing, all that food made us intensely tired. After a small French coffee, I felt a little more clear headed.
All in all, it was a delightful culinary experience. And quite a treat, both in terms of extending my palate and trying something new, as well as from a financial perspective. This certainly isn’t something most people could afford every weekend. But that’s what made it such a special experience.
I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend a weekend afternoon spent at Yam’tcha for lunch. Obviously, it’ll set you back a few dollars, but the food is amazing, the tea refreshing and the pairing of the two makes for a very unique meal. Add in some awesome company, and you’re all set.